30 years on from its invention, Rubik's cube is still instantly recognizable. People like picking it up, turning it a few times, maybe doing a side or two (or five, as a braggart in my class once memorably claimed). Solving the cube remains a reasonably rare feat - you're either smart enough to have figured it out yourself, or geeky enough to have followed a how-to, and most people are neither (then, of course, there is the astonishing Feliks Zemdegs...).
Rubik's cube is not just the quintessential hand-held puzzle, though: it's also an iconic piece of design, so I co-opted it when making a new chest of drawers for my son's room. This cubic piece of furniture has only one of the three required axes of rotation, so is unsolvable in the conventional sense, but can be arranged in any configuration you like by non-sporting means. The drawers do pose a brain-bending challenge: the first thing you have to solve is detecting that they're there, and all three have hidden locks in different locations.
Step 1: Design
The design is simply three boxes, each containing a single drawer. Their construction is basic - they're made of 1/4" and 1/2" plywood (which you should get precut at the lumber yard into two 2'x8' sheets), and assembled using a brad nailer and wood glue. This method of construction is super fast and precise, and results in really strong objects. The main challenge in this build is cutting the pieces with high precision - if you can't cut plywood to within 1 mm, you should probably practice on something simpler until you can. Having said that, I'm no pro and I've never made a chest of drawers before, so this project is NOT fancy woodworking by any means! If you weren't fussed about the drawers, it would be dead easy - it's just three boxes and a couple of lazy Susans, and you'd have a cool coffee table with no additionally functionality aside from rotatability. Deluxe Scrabble, anyone?
I was going to simply glue the "stickers" on to decorate the outside - or even just paint them on - but the future owner insisted he had to be able to scramble and "solve" the cube, so I enabled this with the help of rare-earth magnets for holding power and short dowels for positioning. I'm glad I did - it's more fun now, and the colors can be selected to match your mood or decor, including impossible combos of color (insofar as the real cube goes).
The puzzle is a little under 60 mm across, and this chest of drawers is exactly 600 mm across, so it is in approximately 10:1 scale. 1000 regular Rubik's cubes would therefore fit inside.
There are cubes that are 2x2, 4x4, 5x5 etc, so if you need more (or less) drawers, there is an obvious design solution...